The Daily Telegraph
Jailed teacher: ‘I’d rather serve 100 years than use trans pronouns’
Irish evangelical Christian in prison for third night as he refuses to address pupil in gender-neutral terms
AN IRISH teacher suspended for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns has said he would rather stay in prison for a century than compromise his beliefs on transgenderism.
Enoch Burke, an evangelical Christian, was jailed for contempt of court on Monday after breaching the injunction not to attend or attempt to teach at Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath.
Burke was arrested after turning up to the school “to work” following a disciplinary process prompted by his refusal to refer to a transgender student as “they”.
Yesterday’s hearing in Dublin was a chance for the secondary school history and German teacher to “purge” his contempt and be freed by consenting to the order at a hearing to review its terms.
Instead, he told the court that even if he had to remain in prison for “every hour of every day for the next 100 years” he would not comply.
Transgenderism, he said, was contrary to scripture, and that in this instance he would “only obey God,” and would “not obey man”.
Burke, who represented himself, was returned to Mountjoy Prison to spend a third night in jail and was ordered to pay the legal costs of the school, which has suspended him on full pay.
He has been told he can be freed simply by signalling his intention to abide by the injunction, which the Church of Ireland school took out to prevent disruption at the start of the school term.
In June, Burke had confronted the principal over the policy at a church service and dinner to mark the school’s 260th anniversary. Despite his paid suspension, he would turn up at the school for “meetings” or sit in an empty classroom declaring he was ready to teach before his arrest earlier this week.
The school’s lawyer said it had no wish to see Mr Burke in prison but given his refusal to comply with the orders, her client was left with “no option” other than to bring proceedings before the High Court.
Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled that the injunction should remain in place until a High Court decision. The court’s decision was about the terms of the injunction and Burke’s suspension, and not his religious beliefs, he said.
Those issues were matters for the full hearing of the dispute or the school disciplinary process against Burke, he said.
Burke had earlier claimed he was before the courts over his refusal to
Transgenderism was contrary to scripture and he ‘would only obey God and not obey man’
comply with what he said was his unlawful suspension.
The school’s direction to address one of its students by a different pronoun was to deny him his constitutional rights to religious freedom, he claimed.
He said that by agreeing to comply with his suspension would be akin to agreeing with transgenderism.
He claimed the disciplinary procedures against him were flawed and described any allegation of gross misconduct as being “ludicrous”.
Burke said the student at the centre of the request was not in any of his classes, nor had he had any direct dealings with the pupil.
The school said it was focusing on the needs and welfare of its students and is affirming its policy in accordance with the 2000 Equal Status Act of not discriminating against any student.
The school said it had acknowledged Mr Burke’s religious beliefs but expects him to communicate with the student.